Thursday, February 22, 2018, will go down as one of the darkest and most humiliating days in the history of Missouri state government.
Sadly, there is not much that could have been done to avoid it. Eric Greitens is a talented man who did an amazing job swamping his opponents in fundraising during the primary and riding a wave of the 19-point Trump win to the Governor’s Mansion. For the first time in years, it seemed Republicans had the man in place to implement their agenda.
Most people, myself included, thought he would shortly put aside the demagogue-style “corrupt career politician” rhetoric and sideline the corrupting dark money forces to spend a couple years passing and implementing their agenda before heading off to run for higher office.
Personally, I’ve always felt that ambition is a good thing in politics, after all, you have to do a good job as governor before you can fulfill an ambition for higher office. To be fair, not even his biggest and earliest supporters ever pretended that he had much interest in Missouri or Missouri state government. This was always about a man who had big ambitions and the argument for him was that fulfilling those ambitions meant implementing an agenda and succeeding at being governor here first.
The reality is those ambitions for higher office died January 10, 2018. However, let’s be real, any candidate with this titanic scandal out there was never going to pass the scrutiny of even the first week of a presidential campaign.
It’s easy to start pointing fingers at those who supported Greitens, but does anyone really think that the few Missourians who are close to him knew about this and purposefully set Missouri up for such stain and embarrassment? I, for one, do not. All of us have supported candidates who have let them down.
While on January 10, 2018, the presidential ambitions died, reasonable people could still find reasons not to act. With St. Louis law enforcement, the FBI, and Attorney General Josh Hawley all investigating Eric Greitens, it was clear to anyone not blind-folded that more information would come out. Statesmen pass and implement agendas. Statesmen do not rush to remove elected officials from office, and they didn’t.
February 22, 2018, is the day that no statesman could justify waiting any longer. It was the day that the agenda and the good of the state had to be placed before the man.
The founding fathers of our state established provisions for how when one branch of state government becomes toxic for the other two branches to cleanse it. It’s unfair that House Speaker Todd Richardson has been forced to spend so much of his time in office cleansing state government, but Thursday afternoon, the most honorable man to ever hold the office of Speaker had to again put the white hat on and this time begin cleansing the highest office in state government.
Because of Speaker Richardson’s reputation and the constitutional provisions involved Eric Greitens had no choice but to instruct his criminal defense attorneys to agree to cooperate with the House inquiry. It’s a sad statement that literally no one who has observed his short time in office had any confidence that Eric Greitens would put the agenda or the State of Missouri above himself and step aside. Now he is just ensuring more collateral damage with every day Missourians wake up with their governor under indictment.
The collateral damage, of course, starts with his supporters. Most believe that they took his word and believed him when he said the scandal was over. Reasonable people could have remained before, but honestly, now it’s simply putting self-interest before the well-being of the State of Missouri. This is not the time to throw dirt onto a friend, but to follow honorable men like Mr. Humphreys and make your distance from the tragedy known.
The damage to the reputations of Governor Nixon and to a lesser extent, former U.S. Senator Danforth and Ed Dowd has already begun. I’m not from St. Louis, but I am familiar with the Dowd family and their legendary role in Missouri history and, like most, looked up to Mr. Dowd as a testament to what an honorable man can achieve in life.
Watching this man of dignity so ruthlessly attack the first African-American woman to hold the office just for doing her job while the affiliated public relations group calls her corrupt… well, hopefully people remember him more for all he has done for St. Louis and those who have been disadvantaged before February 22, 2018, and not for this shameful behavior in the days since.
Next month, a Nixon-appointed judge will hear Mr. Dowd’s motion to dismiss the charges against Eric Greitens. On behalf of Eric Greitens, Mr. Dowd, a partner in a firm with former Governor Nixon and former Senator Danforth will argue in open court that Missouri’s daughters can be photographed without their permission in the nude while restrained and blindfolded.
It’s disgusting, and while Eric Greitens deserves the most aggressive criminal defense possible, it’s another example of why the people of Missouri deserve to have that aggressive defense mounted while he is out of office.
The Governor of the State of Missouri, the same office once held by John Ashcroft, is claiming your sister or your daughter can have naked photographs taken of her while she bound and blindfolded without her consent, and some republicans stand behind this.
Eric Greitens has said terrible untrue things about Governor Nixon, his character, and his service to the State of Missouri. However, nothing he has ever said will do as much damage to Governor Nixon’s reputation as Mr. Nixon’s silence while that disgusting argument is made by a law firm his name is attached to.
The Ethics Commission will also be among those who endure collateral damage of Eric Greitens. I understand that the ruling on the Governor’s use of his charity’s fundraising list was issued during his honeymoon era, but no one believed that Friday at 5:30 statement that Danny Laub was to blame for it all then, and fewer do now.
Perhaps the most collateral damage will be to Missouri Republicans. Let’s forego the hypocrisy of advocating for family values, then sitting silent, in this instance. Some Republicans actually believe the agenda they talk about will be good for the people of the State of Missouri. They aren’t corrupt or being paid, they actually believe in their agenda, and, frankly, I believe in most of it, too.
To those republicans who are now clearly placing the man above the agenda, what are they to have us believe? We have watched Eric Greitens paid supporters consistently move the goal posts since this scandal began coming to light.
First, it was the entire scandal was “just rumors” and “there was nothing to it.” Then, the Governor confessed to an affair minutes after lecturing the General Assembly about their lack of ethics.
Then, it was “there was no investigation” going on and it was “all rumors being spread by those who don’t like the Governor.” Then the investigators arrived at at the capitol.
After that, the story changed to “the investigators didn’t have a permit to investigate the Governor.” Some even bought this consultant-driven distraction tactic looking like fools in the process. Let this be a lesson that while consultants are good, hard-working people who are a key reason why the Republicans took the majority in the first place – don’t parrot ridiculous things on their command. They have a job to do, but remember they didn’t swear an oath to the State of Missouri.
Then, they said, “…even though Greitens wouldn’t answer the question, trust us he never took the picture.”
Later, it was that “this woman would never tell her story,” then he was charged with a crime on the basis of her testimony.
Friday, it’s that, “George Soros impersonated the Governor and broke into his house, tying up a woman with tax credits and took her picture to blackmail her.” Until the new de facto head of the Missouri Republican Party, Attorney General Josh Hawley put a stop to the ridiculousness.
Today, their argument is that “it’s actually legal to photograph a woman in the nude tied up in your basement without her permission.”
It’s hard to stand up to them. Missouri Republicans aren’t wrong to be afraid. That feeling of bile in the back of their throats is justified. The east coast masters who actually run Eric Greitens’ office are dangerous people.
However, this is a House caucus that voted in November for a Floor Leader in Rob Vescovo that would be tough. Well, that vote proved to be wise as within weeks events have shown that it is a time for leaders who are tough.
There is an agenda. If you think Eric Greitens is a man to enact your agenda, take a look at the two bills he has advocated for since January 10, 2018. The dog bill died in the House in an embarrassing floor vote, and his tax plan died in the Senate Ways and Means committee the next morning. All this was before February 22, 2018.
You can say you are earnestly serving the state to advance an agenda you believe in, and you can say you are earnestly serving the state to advance the man Eric Greitens. As of February 22, 2018 you cannot honestly say both.
The real question is: how far are Eric Greitens’ supporters willing to lower the bar in order to justify him staying in office?
The answer is: as low as is necessary to save him. They will burn down anything or anyone in this state they can just for sport because that is what we are to them.
After all, they aren’t from here, never professed to care about anything or anyone here, and when it’s over, they are never coming back here.
It will take courage to put the agenda above the man, and have the legislative branch cleanse the executive branch. The next few weeks will tell if that courage exists.
Scott Faughn is the publisher of The Missouri Times, owner of the Clayton Times in Clayton, Mo; SEMO Times in Poplar Bluff, Mo.; and host of the only statewide political television show, This Week in Missouri Politics.